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Singleton Station water licence decision: a death sentence for arid ecosystems

Due to a perceived conflict of interest, the Environment Minister Eva Lawler deferred the decision to approve the controversial Singleton Station water licence to Minister Kate Worden. With only four days to consider complex evidence before handing down her precedent-setting decision, yesterday Minister Worden upheld the extraction of 40 billion litres of groundwater annually from 144 bores. The independent review panel made a series of recommendations for further conditions on the licence, yet concerningly, not all have been adopted. 

Arid Lands Environment Centre (ALEC) General Manager Jade Kudrenko warns that the licence guarantees the destruction of arid ecosystems and shows a flawed commitment from the Government for water security for all Territorians.

“This decision is a death sentence. The licence guarantees the death of 30% of the groundwater dependent ecosystems throughout that vast arid area. The Territory has failed in their duty to ensure development is not at the expense of vulnerable ecosystems. This scale of government-sanctioned environmental degradation is astonishing,” says Jade.  

“The amendments will have little effect. The licence is simply too big.”

“Gifting an enormous volume of water to a private company in an arid zone is a short term gain but in the longer term it’s unsustainable. We’ve seen in other parts of the country that buying back water licences costs the taxpayer a lot of money.”

During a Ministerial Review in September, ALEC argued that the Water Controller’s decision to grant the licence was unlawful on several grounds including breaching the Water Act and posing unacceptable levels of uncertainty regarding environmental impacts.  

“The requirements and outcome of the review demonstrates that when the Territory Government is so narrowly focused on economic development, more than ever, independent environmental organisations are critical.”

“Organisations like ALEC and the Environmental Defenders Office provide otherwise lacking scrutiny and rigour to decisions that will have lasting impact on our communities and ecosystems.” 

“We need a stronger and more transparent process based on rigorous scientific assessment before water licences are granted to protect the health of our ecosystems and ensure drinking water for future generations.”   

ALEC and other interested parties have 60 days to seek a judicial review.

“We are consulting with some of Australia’s top water law experts. Together, we will choose a course of action that will result in the best outcomes for the environment.”

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